Food Safety Is Top Dog at Hill’s Pet Nutrition

If you were to ask what keeps Hill’s Pet Nutrition CEO Neil
Thompson up at night, he would tell you product safety. If you asked pet owners
about what their biggest pet food concerns are, you would likely get a similar
And, with the recent recall of some Diamond Pet Foods over salmonella concerns, the
worry over how safe the food being fed to  our pets is, is a topic that will not be going
away anytime soon. 
“Our promise is safety first,” Thompson told a group ofjournalists and bloggers on a recent media tour of his company’s
Topeka-based pet nutrition center. “The best nutrition, with great taste,
outstanding value and highest quality.”
Food safety is something Hill’s takes extremely seriously,
and as a result has numerous layers of security and tests that every food
product they use must go through before they will put it in the products they
“We have specifications for every single ingredient we
purchase,” said Diane Loiselle, vice president of product safety, regulatory and
quality. “We set expectations for our suppliers and they have to meet these
If they don’t, Loiselle says, they won’t use them. 

Becoming a Hill’s supplier is not easy. 
To even be considered, potential suppliers must fill out a
rigorous 76 question form. If the answers are up to the Hill’s standard then
the site must receive an on-site visit from a team comprised of Hills and
Colgate employees. 
In addition, all meat and poultry must be sourced from
government inspected facilities.
So where exactly do they get the meat they use in their
foods? Most of it comes from the U.S., as well as Japan, Canada, New Zealand,
Australia and Europe.
When creating a Hill’s food, their theory is knowing what an
animal needs and not putting too much or too little. Simply, it’s creating a
food that gives a pet the right amount of balanced nutrition in every bowl. 
Most of the manufacturing of their products is also done in-house at one of their six facilities – four in the U.S. and two in Europe. 
Hill’s food goes through 60 quality tests per batch, their
plants are constantly being inspected by internal and external auditors, since
2007 the food is tested for salmonella, screened for metal and must conform to
the nutritional standards set by the company for each specific product. 
If something should happen, the company can trace any batch
within 24 hours, and no food leaves their facilities before all the testing is
They are constantly testing the quality of the food –
starting directly at the source, to before it’s allowed to enter the plant, and
even several times as it’s being processed to when it’s bagged.
During our media tour of their emporia manufacturing plant,
we were shown this first hand. We watched as various technicians tested for
weight and quality, sat behind a four-screen computer monitoring production
machines to make sure the correct amounts of everything were working just
like they were supposed to.
It’s a skill that doesn’t come easy — technicians at that
plant were put through a rigorous training course learning how to sample and test the
product to make sure it met the company’s nutritional standards.
If at any point there is a problem, they can immediately
stop the production, find the source of the problem and do what they need to
correct it. 
Just like when it comes to human food, there is always a
chance that even with the tightest quality controls, the food can be
compromised, but it is nice to see first-hand, and know, that everything
possible is being done to prevent it from happening. 
Editorial Note: I wrote this article on the plane ride home from a Hill’s sponsored media tour in March 2012, but had not published it until now. As part of the tour, we did receive complementary accommodations and airfare, but these are my honest opinions, account of what I observed during the tour and answers to questions that were asked by the people on the tour, myself included.

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5 thoughts on “Food Safety Is Top Dog at Hill’s Pet Nutrition

  1. Safety is definitely an important concern. Thank you for sharing what you learned with us. It is always very helpful. We just adopted a new dog with allergies, so I'm just now trying to find what food works for him.
    p.s. I got invited to one of these tours at a different pet food company, I wonder if you'll be there too??

  2. Thank you for both your words and accuracy towards the pet nutrition we provide. We enjoyed your visit.

    ~ chemist for Hill's Emporia

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